Telecoms Miss Obvious Patch Against NSA

Even if we wanted to stop them, it seems our phone company might be too incompetent to back the effort up.

While working on a project called the “GSM Security Map“, head researcher at Berlin’s Security Research Labs Karsten Nohl noticed the A5/1-based encryption method wasn’t being properly utilized by popular telecoms  on their cell towers, which may have enabled the NSA to hone in on specific citizens based on nothing more than information pulled from a phone’s SIM card.

Had they applied a simple patch to the standard that has been available for over five years now, they would have been able to cut the agency off at one of their largest caches of illegally obtained data.

Because this vulnerability is native to all carriers and not just those located in the US and EU, Nohl does not believe the telcos were complicit in granting unrestricted access to their users SIM and all the information located inside.

“I couldn’t imagine it is complicity. I think it is negligence,” he said. “I don’t want to believe in a worldwide conspiracy across all worldwide network operators. I think it is individual laziness and priority on network speed and network coverage and not security.”

SIM cards that are cloned or compromised can be used to send text messages and make phone calls from a spoofed phone, and are capable of impersonating customers who fall prey to this nefarious style of spycraft.

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